Want a role in sustainability? Lead from where you are
As chair of the ICRS, one of the questions I'm asked the most is 'how can I get a role in corporate responsibility and sustainability (CRS)?'
Our profession is, by many standards, still ‘new’. It’s evolved over the past 20 years from its early days of environmental reporting and philanthropic contribution, into a complex, strategic function that speaks to the very purpose of an organisation’s being.
Now recognised as a profession in our own right, it’s not hard to imagine why so many people want to join us. I believe that most people by their very nature want to make a positive difference – they want their work to make things better, not worse and they often see the CRS profession as a way of making a positive difference.
The fact of the matter, however, is that formal CRS roles are few and far between. While a large corporation may employ dozens of strategists, procurement specialists or lawyers, the CRS team will likely be small. People within the profession also tend to stay within it – a great advertisement for the job satisfaction and sense of purpose they enjoy, but little comfort to those wanting for people to move on in order to join the ranks.
Bigger CRS teams are not the answer
Which brings me back to the original question. When people ask me how they might break into CRS, my advice is that they should first look to make a difference where they are. While I won’t deny the attraction of the profession, we’ll not change the world by employing ever larger CRS teams.
Positive change is happening within organisations because of the success CRS professionals have had, and continue to have, in influencing those around them to consider corporate responsibility and sustainability in their decision-making.
From finance to facilities, HR to PR and everything in between, we will have succeeded only once we have convinced people throughout the organisation to bring their passion and their commitment to making a positive difference in whatever work they’re already doing.
Making change happen
But the role of change-maker is not the preserve of the people within the CRS departments. Encouraging a greater focus on more responsible and sustainable business practices is something that we can all do, using our values and those of the organisation’s we work for as a guide.
So, as we move into a fresh new year, I’d encourage anyone wanting to find more purpose in their work, perhaps those weighing up a career change or further study, to also consider the ways that they can lead from where they are.
Claudine Blamey is chair of ICRSICRS